Elizabeth Gilbert, in her best selling book Eat,Pray,Love describes a discussion with friends about the vibe of different cities.
The friends suggested that each city has a word that defines it and identifies most of the people who live there. Whatever the majority “thought” might be is the word for the city. If you’ve read this entertaining book you know that the friends dubbed Rome with the word “sex,” New York with “achieve,” and Los Angeles with “success.”
The underlying truth of this exercise is that we learn the values of people through our experience with them or being among them. The core essence of a group of people or an individual reveals itself to us through actions, words and structures.
On a recent trip to London I asked a friend, a Londoner, to describe the essence of her city with one word. As she hesitated, I offered the word “tradition.” We’d just witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. My friend offered a word that held deeper truth for her – “tolerance.” My mind connected with the scene at Heathrow Airport, a diverse melting pot where differences such as language create a chaotic buzz, but tolerance lends a melody. The important point is that “tolerance” is true for her. It is her experience of her city.
What word would describe the essence of your organization? Is it a word you’ve chosen for your organization or has it developed organically?
Said another way – what is the predominant value expressed in your organization?
Leadership Beyond Limits offers a tool that allows you to determine with certainty what values your employees see expressed in the organization and how those compare with their personal values. This information is vital. If there is misalignment between their personal values and what they experience in your organization, they will be looking for a better match soon.
Open your next leadership team meeting by asking each person to write down the one word that describes the essence of your organization and then share them. The discussion might be revealing or affirming, but it will likely be one of the most important discussions you will have that day.